Dispatch 8: How to read


How to read

While these posts tend to include a lot of Youtube videos, it's important to consume broadly, and unfortunately that may mean having to read some books. Fortunately, one of my favorite channels, Philosophy Tube has a video on how to read difficult books.

One of his main points is to give yourself permission to take breaks and even re-read passages or chapters if you need to. Secondly, reading two different kinds of books can also be beneficial, as well as speeding up your completion rate.


I'd also like to add that while some books may take some time to "get going," we should all give ourselves permissions to stop reading a bad book if we really don't like it. This also goes for any other media. If you really don't like something and it's bringing you no joy or intellectual sustenance, turn it off. Even if everyone else loves it. Your time is worth more than that.


Patreon doesn't pay enough, (The Outline)


If you listen to enough podcasts, you'll probably hear a couple ads for Patreon. It's a "crowdfunding site" only instead of paying towards the completion of a specific goal, you directly support an ongoing creative endeavor.

For the ones at the top (for example Chapo Trap House pulls in over $80,000 a month), this has been a great way to monetize their work. But for the vast majority of patreon users, it hasn't allowed them to quit their day jobs. Brent Knepper at The Outline breaks down exactly why that is, and what Patreon doesn't do to help creators.

It is interesting to see how Patreon has been able to insert itself in the middle of all of these transactions, while apparently adding very little in the way of value, and a lot of extra work, to creators' plates.


Christmas time means Christmas movies


I haven't been able to get the movie One Magic Christmas out of my head ever since I saw it back in the early 90s on The Disney Channel. I don't know why exactly, it is, in many respects not all that memorable.


The thing that stands out most to me is that it was the first Christmas movie I saw where Santa Claus doesn't really play a big roll. Yes, he's a big feature of the children's Christmas experience but much of the magic in the film comes from plainclothes angel Gideon (played by Harry Dean Stanton.)


Why are computers beige?

Just a random video I stumbled upon. Pretty much all 1980s/90s computers were a rather terrible beige color. They may have a dark-gray accent color here or there, but overall the beige box was ubiquitous in offices of the time




As it turns out, the reason that beige was the rage had to do with a German workplace regulation from the 1970s. This standard was eventually adopted by other countries throughout Europe to the point where it made very little sense to make any other color options besides beige.


While Apple gets a lot of credit for shifting the aesthetic of home computers, the black IBM Thinkpad was a major force in changing office hardware.   

Tin foil square dance society

Finally, I'll close with a link to this amazing thread by @robynelyse on the secret cabal that has sought to make square dancing the national folk dance of the United States. I'm not kidding. It's weird.




Dispatch 7: Spooktacular

As Halloween approaches, I am possessed with a desire to find some good seasonal content. And of course, Halloween is weird in its own right so there are lots of great things to share. So open up that pillow case and receive this bounty.

Up first is none other than Vincent Price.

Though, perhaps you haven't heard him quite like this.

"Wine is Elegance" was a spoken word LP released in 1977. In his time, Price was an ambassador of California wines and clearly had a passion for fine dining. Maybe not the most spooktacular aspect of his career, but it's entertaining to hear Price talk up the virtue of wine and good company.

We'll turn it up just another notch with another illustrious voice.

Paul Frees was a renowned "golden throat" who voiced many commercials and cartoons. He was also the original voice of the "Ghost host" of the haunted mansion. Here is a raw recording of his introduction with some witty, if problematic, banter in the studio.

You must remember this takes on classic horror monsters

Karina Longworth's podcast about Hollywood history is often essential listening for classic movie buffs. This latest season (or cycle) profiles the careers of two of Hollywood's classic monster actors: Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. The first episode appeared recently, so you aren't too behind if you start listening now. And once this season has concluded, go back and listen to the riveting, epic season about the Manson family.

A Youtube Playlist for you

I happen to love the "PG" side of Halloween. I think it's just a big nostalgia trip for me to remember watching 'spooky' stuff like Disney's Halloween Treat in late October. So in that spirit I've put together a YouTube playlist of "VHS classics" there are Halloween specials and commercials from the 1980s and early 1990s.

Remember when the McNuggets were a Halloween staple?

That'll do it for this Dispatch. A veritable pillow case of tasty treats, in my opinion. Remember to brush your teeth.

Dispatch 6: Leon's Island jams

Nanowripod's final chapter

For the past 4 years I produced (and originally hosted) a podcast about National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) called Nanowripod. By the number of listens, downloads, and comments, it is probably the most successful things I've worked on outside of my "civilian" career.

However, the core group (Jim, Ed, and I) have found our interests diverging and the workload of trying to do a Nanowripod season without our hearts really being in it didn't feel like something we should do. We also didn't want to just abandon the podcast, as happens to so many shows.

So we recorded our "Omega episode" a couple weeks ago. Please give it a listen and don't hesitate to go back to the whole show.

Leon's latest mix on Soundcloud is something else:

It turns out that the guy with the Yoshi's Island twitter avatar has a thing for sunshine-y bouncy dance music. Go figure.

While the days are getting shorter and colder, this is something to help keep a bit of summer going.


20 year old Doom videos look better than ones from 10 years ago

I'm still on my Doom kick from the past few weeks, so why not share this interesting nugget from decades ago.

I was a bit young, and my computer was a bit too isolated to participate in Doom deathmatches, but I remember that multiplayer was definitely a big selling point for Doom, and even moreso for Quake. Unlike with most games, if you wanted to record a video of you playing a game back in the 90s you either needed a very specialized piece of hardware that could capture the video output, or you would just point a camera at your monitor.

Doom, however, had a brilliant feature that let you record "demos" of yourself playing. The demo is the gameplay that occurs when the game first starts and you're still navigating the menu. By default there is some pretty rudimentary gameplay in the demo, but players can basically record anytime they're playing, including multiplayer matches. These demo files used the game engine for playback, so they didn't require a video encoding to be saved. Anyone with the game (millions of players) could load up a demo and watch it run.

What this meant was that players could record high quality, low filesize, 'videos' of their gameplay which could be shared easily even back in the old dial-up days. Because the game engine plays back the demo, a player using modern HD capture software can now make high quality videos for Youtube of classic Doom deathmatches and speedruns from decades ago.

Check this out:

And that'll do for this dispatch. It's a bit lighter than I would like, but I've been holding out on this one for a while and I want to put together a properly spooky dispatch for all you groovie ghoulies.

Dispatch 5: Hold Please

This week I found myself making a few customer service calls and it made me think about hold music. And of course, the top result for "hold music" on the ol' Youtube and found what is, quite possibly the most famous hold music of the 21st century:

From the info on the Youtube post:

“The song is called Opus No. 1, by Tim Carleton and Darrick Deel. It’s never been on a Top 40 list or gotten radio play, and yet it’s heard around the world by the millions of people who are placed on hold each day.

Darrick and Tim’s story actually begins back in 1989, when as teenagers and friends they recorded a song in their garage. Unfortunately, they didn’t go on to rockstar fame and fortune, but years later Darrick would go on to take a job with Cisco. In his role building Cisco’s first version of IP phones, he was aware of Cisco’s need for a piece of music to use as the default hold music for the new system. Cut to several years later, and their high school composition has become the hold music for the world’s most popular phone systems with over 65 million IP phones sold. With that, Opus No. 1 has left the safety of Darrick and Tim’s childhood recording studio and entered ear worm status.” — Cisco Blog

You can read more about Opus No. 1 at:

Listen to the This American Life episode about it at:

These piece in itself has now become something that falls under the "aesthetic" umbrella of ephemera that holds an almost totemic importance to a subset of millenials. (yes, that is hyperbole, as is everything in aesthetics.)

Also, something about those chords makes me think of Toto's Africa... go fig.

Point, Contrapoint

Youtube has a problem with the alt-right. Or, at least it should be treated as a problem. It’s hard to look up any pressing social issue and not find ultra conservative talking heads dominating the search results. Fortunately, a few stalwart folks are putting some work into pushing back, and using even better style and aesthetics.
ContraPoints is a genderqueer genius doing the work of educating the masses, and delivered humorously.
They recently released a video that directly addresses the signalling and messages that the alt-right and fascists use to appeal to ‘moderates.’

Once you’ve finished enjoying that, i highly recommend Contra’s more personal video essay about coming out as genderqueer and what that means to them.

Happy Labor-Doom

Being that we’re looking at a long weekend, I plan to spend some of that time with an old friend: the venerable first person shooter, Doom. thanks to speedrunning and modders, many groundbreaking games have fandoms that continue to this day. However, I was surprised to learn of a mod that was created a few years ago named, appropriately, Brutal Doom.

Brutal Doom is basically everything we feared of the original Doom. The violence is cranked up, the enemies are harder, the sound is bigger. Where in the old game monsters would collapse in a gross meaty pile if exploded, now you have proper “gib” effects as well as massive blood splatter effects that cover walls and ceilings. It’s most recent updates came just a few months ago, so it’s still actively being developed and I can’t wait to give it a shot.

Doom is now almost 25 years old and, like a classic film, there are certain qualities about it that have stood the test of time, despite advances in the underlying technology. The first episode in the series deftly introduces the player to the mechanics of the game with very little (virtually no) overt hand holding. In this regard it is similar to the original Super Mario Bros.

That'll do it for this long weekend post. If any of these links have sparked a thought or response, share them below.


Dispatch 3: Pepsi-free

An Agent of Love

I've been mildly obsessed with Griffin McElroy's Polygon videos. The most notable of these is Car Boys, in which Nick Robinson and Griffin McElroy take the car physics simulator BeamNG.drive, and turn it into a magical journey of discovery and truth. It's the most compelling "Let's Play" style video that has ever been made. Like it actually makes me want to play a freaking physics simulator.

But not griffin has done other video series as well. Another notable one is the hilarious and wonderful "PeaceCraft." In PeaceCraft, Griffin plays World of WarCraft in a "pacifist" style. He eschews all combat, and resolves to not harm anyone while he tries to traverse the massive in-game realm, essentially on a "tour" of game. Of course killing things is a primary way you survive, complete quests, level up and earn money and other goods so his innovative ways of working against this core game mechanic are the crux of the show. Griffin's struggle to live a peaceful life is both hilarious and heartwarming. I highly recommend checking out the best of video, and if you find yourself cackling at your computer, watch the whole series of videos.

Why is "the web" awful? 🤔

This is the question asked by The Outline (a website that's not bad)... there's a pretty straightforward answer. The web is fine. Corporate websites are awful. They're hard to use, littered with pop ups, and user-antagonistic when it comes to insisting people white list their ad-riddled monstrosities.

Personal websites, by and large, are still fine. Blogging platforms like blogger (in the year of our lord 2017, freaking blogger) is more than enough for most consumers of the readable web. The big difference is how desperate you are to compromise everything to try and earn some money on it? It's all compromised vision and it is hard to feel much sympathy for gargantuan sites that struggle.

My point is, read more blogs.

Cassettes were the jam

I grew up at the height of cassette tapes as the primary means of listening to music. Yes, vinyl was king in the home but cassettes were truly portable listening and were far more compact.

It also turns out, that we all really didn't know what we were talking about when it came to cassettes and audio quality.

Techmoan on Youtube breaks down all the interesting features of classic format


As you probably noticed, I have a fairly  new public instagram account to showcase my photos on that site. While I still like how feature loaded Flickr is, Instagram is where people see your work. People are less inclined to click Flickr links, and you don't really feel like it's an active place compared to Instagram. And, surprisingly, I've had almost exclusively positive interactions there so far.

I got the name "30 Ghosts" from a reference I believe I read from Warren Ellis. I don't know exactly where, but it was probably in his newsletter. In it, he mentioned that each person currently alive on earth has about 30 ghosts out of the population of humans that has ever lived. Something about that is both ominous and somewhat inspiring.

This is from my first scans done from my own developing. Two guys walking in Millenium Park a few weeks ago.

This is from my first scans done from my own developing. Two guys walking in Millenium Park a few weeks ago.

While we're on the subject of photography, here's a great video by photographer John Fee. It's a bit long, but even just watching for the first few minutes is refreshing. He genuinely loves teaching and sharing, and he also has some very incisive thoughts on what makes a good photo.

The therapeutic lessons in developing your own film

It's not much of a secret to my friends that I love film photography.

I always carry my cameras with me, and after spending a good chunk of change mailing my film out, I took the logical step of developing my own black and white film at home. It's one of the best decisions I've made, and had some unexpected benefits.

This post isn't a how-to, or a technical review of a developer or film. I learned something else in the process, not about film, but about myself.

The germ of this post came up in therapy, and it really lit up my therapist and I as we dug into it.

A member of the Jesse White Tumbling team performs at the July 3rd Wilmette Independence Day festival (July 3rd, 2017)

A member of the Jesse White Tumbling team performs at the July 3rd Wilmette Independence Day festival (July 3rd, 2017)


Light is the single most important part of photography. I know this is pretty basic, but light is also an important metaphor in life. We talk about sharing light with others, bringing things to light, seeing things in new light.

The opposite of light is, of course, darkness. Film must live a large portion of its life in darkness, being exposed to light in split second moments in the camera. And then it must be protected from further light until we've poured chemicals on it and make it immune (or at least more resistant to) light - that place in which we can finally see what the film captured.

 In the darkness we can find ourselves, darkness is something that we must grow accustomed to as we live. It is not always pleasant, but it is important, and it is inextricably linked to light. Film needs both. We need both.

No going back

Another important feature of the film developing process is that there is no "undo" or do-over. Unlike with digital where we can tweak images and reverse steps, from the moment you've exposed the film, you are now in the process of taking this to its completed, irreversible end. Sounds kind of scary doesn't it?

You carefully place the film in the camera, you take pictures until the roll is used up. Then, you have to break open the film canister (or: you can pull the film out and cut it away from the canister, both have clear connections to birth/hatching). Again, once you've removed the film from the canister, there's no real going back (and you can't "unexpose" a roll of film). 

So you have this film in a  dark place, either in a dark room or in a changing bag where there is no light- you can't even see what you're doing. You are navigating by feel, by memory. You put the invisible film onto a reel and then into a light safe container. Once it's in the light safe container you can then take it out of the bag and pour a series of chemicals into the tank. At each of these steps there is no going back. Developer starts working as soon as it makes contact with the film. You can try to make some tweaks by letting the chemicals work longer or by agitating the film by shaking the tank or moving the film inside- but again, you're just putting English on this process that is irreversibly moving forward.

After you've poured out the developer, used a stop bath (often times this is just immersing the film in water to clean off the developer), you pour in the fixer. After that, the film can be seen in the light light for what it is. That's the moment of truth, especially if it's your first time. I've only developed film a handful of times so far, but it still seems like some kind of a miracle. What should utterly destroy the negative is now not an issue at all, in fact, it's just as important now for the film to be seen as it was for it to be unseen just a few moments before.

I also appreciate that this technique that I'm performing is fundamentally the same process that photographers have been using for over a hundred years. In fact, while there are some basic dos and don'ts, you will probably get usable negatives. But that's like saying if you blow properly into an instrument you'll get a sound, it's not music unless you practice and learn. Every time I repeat the process, I learn, change, and grow.

My dad looking at an exhibit in the Chicago History Museum, March 2017.

My dad looking at an exhibit in the Chicago History Museum, March 2017.

Film talk: Platon in Netflix's Abstract and the failure of a "view from nowhere"

On the recommendation of a friend, I watched the Abstract episode about Platon on Netflix. I hadn't heard of this photographer, but I'd seen his work on newsstands or online. You've seen it too. He's photographed many world leaders and celebrities. Many of them in the same tight close-up format. They're great photos, and he clearly does great technical work.

What surprised me though is that while he's committed to his art, he seems rather ambivalent about other things. One shoot, he'll photograph a war criminal, the next the victims of those war criminals, and seems to have little say other than "this is interesting and everyone has a story..."

It dawned on me, looking at his photos of soldiers, that his work bears a passing similarity to Jerry Bruckheimer. In Bruckheimer's hand, all is made mythic. It symbolizes everything but says very little.*

What really sealed this for me was Platon's own words after the election of Donald Trump. On Instagram he posted one of his portraits of the odious blowhard (Platon never has anything bad to say about anyone) and had this to say (quoted in its entirety):

“A note to my followers, some of you may have been surprised that I have not commented on Americas election results. It is true, that I am a political junkie and have spent the last 25 years immersed in issues of politics and leadership in the USA and the rest of the world. Yet, something seismic and historic has obviously happened to the USA and before I jump to conclusive analysis, I needed time for reflection, time to pause and step back. In my opinion, this was not an election about data, information, or even policy. It was an election about style and the impression of powerful story telling. While the American media looks for people to blame for their inaccurate pre-election analysis, we must take a hard look at how we tell stories. Social media has brought us so many benefits, but we must also deal with the dark side of the fourth industrial revolution. The undeniable disruption to our media institutions has in effect, allowed us to exist in our own echo chambers or filter bubbles. We now receive the news we want to receive. It’s based on opinion and is distributed by people that often share our similar outlooks. The ultimate result is that we become tribal, frightened of another point of view or a different value system. Unable to reach across any barrier in a respectful way and discuss complicated and painful issues with dignity. The American media institutions have allowed themselves to put ratings first and serious analysis second, the result is that they not only perpetuated this surprising result, but were also unable to see their own short coming. It is never my position to preach, my role in society must remain neutral. I was trained as a cultural provocateur to stimulate respectful debate , to bring all ides to the center and embrace the shared experience. By humanizing statistics I hope we can make more compassionate decisions. Now is the time for unity wether we agree with Donald Trumps controversial rhetoric or not, now is the time for compassionate understanding, and now is the time to re-assess how we communicate and how we tell the important stories of our era."

My role in society is to remain neutral.

There is no neutral. There never has been. There is idleness and there is action. Platon claims neutrality when he himself sees things that should change and end, but he seems to have no real opinion about why or how... What good is that?

I'm struck by how much I agree with his aesthetics and how much I detest his rigidly centrist politics.

*for more analysis on Transformers, check out Lindsey Ellis' youtube series on the franchise.


Dispatch 2: What is the fastest music?

The Best Art

Artist Nicole He has created a collaborative art experiment with her Macbook as partner. Every day, the computer creates a new piece of art that it has calculated to be "the best art" for that day. It is then up to the human (He, in this instance) to create that art piece.

You can see the project in action here.

The math of maps

Numberphile, a favorite Youtube channel, has a great video explaining the theory behind "four color theory" in cartography.

In short, there is a well known fact of maps that you only need 4 colors to delineate the borders of states. Numberphile goes into why that always works.



How fast can you hear?

Musician Adam Neely answers a very intriguing question: "what is the fastest music?"

The answer is a bit more complicated, of course.

Adam analyses popular performances of fast music, virtuoso performers and explains one of the thresholds of human perception.


Another music streaming service

We aren't really wanting for options for paid music streaming services, but we're getting another one anyway. Pandora, which was one of the earliest (and still in existence) music streaming services, now has a true on-demand option that will rolling out to subscribers and then to the general public.

What makes this interesting is that Pandora acquired Rdio's assets a few years ago which made this possible. Pandora, by virtue of it being fairly long lived for such a service, has a large installed userbase. So there will certainly be takers for the $10-a-month option to listen to music on demand, as well as harnessing Pandora's algorithmicplaylist generation feature.

The biggest stumbling block, as far as I see, is that this type of service needs to have some other hook to truly stand out and I don't think that just smart playlist/'radio station' creation is going to do it. Yes, as The Verge's article mentions, new users are probably put off by the sheer vastness of most online catalogs (i.e. "I just want to listen to something") but the other streaming services have some additional value adds.

For example, Google bundles in Youtube Red, which turns off preroll ads on Youtube, making the vast music stored on Youtube feel like an add-on to Youtube's music offerings. Spotify has extensive support across various other apps, or being accessible directly through channels on Amazon Echo, Roku, etc.

All those things add utility, and more important for Pandora, keep users around. The catalog is almost beside the point.

Dispatch 1: Soylent, non-food for non-humans

I want to revive this blog and I know that posting everything as it comes to social media just doesn't really cut it, so instead let's try something different.

Soylent is not people

Over it's short history, Soylent has gone to fascinating lengths to not just streamline the process of consuming food but to dehumanize itself, its customers, and its product. The next step is an "AI spokesperson" named Trish.

Trish has a Bitcoin-based store, Soy Route, on the dark web, where Soylent aims to sell rare products including mystery-flavor Soylent, a beef-flavor kit and golden Soylent signed by the CEO. Trish is also set to make an appearance at the upcoming SXSW Conference.


Soylent's mission from the start has been to eliminate the tedium of preparing food, while also being as convenient as junk food. However, the second factor here is that it frees up the individual to spend more time on their work. I'm sure there could be some joy expressed in that opportunity, but Soylent is not interested in frivolous things like that. It is efficiciency for efficiency's sake.

35mm Wasteland

Kodak has been pushing to get filmmakers interested in shooting on film once more, but it's been a struggle since much of the film infrastructure of the 20th century has already disappeared.

This post by Anna Biller details the almost post-apocalyptic landscape of trying to shoot a movie on 35mm film.


S I M P S O N W A V E is saving my life

I am about three or four years behind this trend, but Simpsons Wave has become a goto thing in my downtime at work, especially in the morning.

Simpson Wave is an aesthetic that blends the highly specific (and specifically high) genre of vaporwave with clips from TheSimpsons. As usual it is better to show instead of just telling. Here is a particularly brilliant example:

Song: HOME - Decay

If you're at all familiar with the Simpsons, the appeal should be fairly apparent. It is complete and total nostalgia and ennui. There are some (okay, a lot) of weed references in the simpler versions of this kind of video, but the core of it plasters on a hyper-color 80s haze mixed with the very simple Simpsons design. The video noise, tape hiss, and peripherally psychedelic apsects only serve to augment it.



The War on Women is over

Also, since it was #international women's day. Congrats on winning the gender war.



My Beautiful Robot Son

Something that has been bothering me in the past few weeks was the rise of "alt" accounts. The first was an alt Badlands national park account, but quickly other twitter accounts popped up. Their similarity being that they stood in opposition to government bodies that would be more tightly regulated in their communication under President Trump.

The flipside of this is that, of course, anyone can create a twitter account and many of the accounts seemed to be doing very little other than taking up space and attention. And, as a supporter of rebellious and resistant action against this president, I was concerned that people who shared my views may getting bad/inaccurate information from accounts that are playing at being more authoritative than they are.

 The notable @Roguepotussstaff account has backed off from claiming to be a source of "news" (if it ever could have been) and now considers itself a source of "commentary." If it's an anonymous way for employees to bash on their boss, I guess that's of some value, but it's not exactly Deep Throat, either.

But it got me thinking. Since it's so easy to create twitter accounts, why not have a little fun instead of feeling frustrated? What if a "Rogue account" was actually a robot? Or something similar to the venerable @horse_ebooks account? Something that was somehow significant and weird and unique among rogue accounts?

Thus was born, @POTUS_hugs.

As it turns out, it's REALLY easy. I followed these instructions, and after realizing how bad I am at catching stray spaces or putting double quotes when I needed to do single quotes, the thing was running in a few minutes.

The initial build included only content scraped from @roguepotusstaff. I quickly realized that handing POTUS_hugs only a couple hundred tweets was not going to be enough. You can look back at the earliest stuff (Feb 1) and they read almost like copies of the regular roguepotusstaff tweets. As a digital Geppetto, it was not enough that POTUS_hugs merely parrot, but he needed to speak with some experience. So I had to figure out how to add multiple accounts into one corpus (the collected body of tweets that the bot will cull from to make its own tweets), and I had to be selective in who I picked.

I then tried mixing together roguepotusstaff, Reince Preibus, Edward Snowden, and @utilitylimb for bizarre humor. Priebus was a mistake. His tweets are inane and it seems like 90% of them mention Hillary Clinton. POTUS_hugs just sounded like a conservative pundit. No son of mine would be a beltway pundit.

Another thing was that the funny accounts I tried mixing in generally had larger corpuses than the other accounts, so I tried to balance that out by adding in content from @alt_nasa and @alt_cdc, each of which only have a couple hundred tweets max. Being that @roguepotusstaff seems to spend much of it's time blocking people asking for proof of their identity, it can't hurt to diversify the corpus.


The results, literally, speak for themselves.

A beautiful moment.

A beautiful moment.

The rich (and flavorful) world of General Foods coffee commercials

Because I live a bold and exciting life, this morning found me looking up coffee commercials on Youtube.

And I happened upon a rather random Huffington Post article highlighting (of all things) "General Foods International Coffees."

These make a nice companion to the resplendent Sizzler commercial from around the same time period.

Each of the GFS commercials shows a little vignette of a couple of people (usually women, the old "2 Cs in a K" motif) just appreciating life and the passage of time over a steaming cup of coffee.

But it's clear that between the lines there is a rather vibrant world that has been imagined. This is Payton Place in 30 seconds or less.

See, for example the lesbian couple laughing over their old lives in the closet. Oh, Steve, he meant well...

These ads really start to click when the viewer assumes that they are all occurring in the same town. It feels like a Stephen King novel only instead of dark secrets and cursed totems, they've got instant coffee and warm sentimentality.


What could be the dark secret as to why there are almost no men in the exceedingly white town of General Foods-ville? Nobody's saying. Maybe it has to do with an incident on a certain senior trip?


Clearly these people would rather be somewhere else. What is the purgatory of the General Foods town in which this is set. A place where dreams go to die? Evaporating like the wafting aroma of signature instant coffee?

Here again, images of handsome foreign waiters dance in our protagonists' heads.

(the unison of the words "waiter" and "what's-his-name" is particularly earworm-y.)

Leah Thompson, prior to saving the homeland in Red Dawn, was packing for a different kind of excursion. And once again, the ol' fee fees struck when they least expected it.


Flash forward almost a decade and there was clearly still some magic in the "International Coffee" advertising premise.

The 90s was a time where the sentimentality of the classic commercials mixed with a certain erotic tension. Consider these three ads. In the first, an exhausted couple unwinds with some night-coffee (classic sleep aid that it is) and rather tawdry memory triggered by a certain familiar blend of joe. The next harkens to a tropical location by way of that sickly sweet booze-dilution, Khalua. And the other, in which an old friend's brother's romantic availability is cause for hot pot of gossip with a side of Suisse Mocha instant.

The number of people with distinct sense memories for coffee is truly staggering. Out of my 20-ish years of coffee drinking on a semi-regular basis, I can think of maybe four distinct instances where coffee was at all notable. These people should be in a study.


Seeing so many of these little vignettes back to back, one quickly becomes a connoisseur. This ad is probably the clunkiest in this style. They come right and drop the brand name in the first five seconds. No tact, no art. It reeks of desperation. The fact that this was recorded by a camcorder aimed at a TV playing a VHS tape does not help matters.


Here is an earlier version with the same clunky delivery. This can be forgiven for being much earlier in the series (I can't believe I'm referring to them that way.) Perhaps even more jarring is the awkward way the actors sip the coffee and the final gestures -intended to indicate a deep abiding relationship- feel as if they're about to awkwardly kiss for the first time.